Review: Tangled Webs by Lee Bross

18368525Tangled Webs (Tangled Webs, #1) by Lee Bross
Published: June 23rd by Disney Hyperion
Pages: 304

London, 1725. Everybody has a secret. Lady A will keep yours—for a price. This sumptuous, scandalous YA novel is wickedly addictive.

Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.

But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.

Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?
"Lady A." His voice sounded hoarse, like he'd only just started using it.
 She inclined her head slightly. He took a long swallow from the glass of brandy clutched in his fat fingers. Just like that, she had the power again.
Thank you Disney Hyperion for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

Going into a book with little knowledge about it, nor having many expectations, payed off this time. Tangled Webs is, despite the issues, a surprisingly good novel with some surprising qualities.

It is, for example, one of those books I could get easily lost in. The world is always accompanied by rich and vivid descriptions of the touch class system of the 18th century, but also lots of smaller aspects I will get into later on. It's clear the author has done her homework and therefore it feels like a bonus when she also succeeds in letting the atmosphere of the old city shine through in her own book. Ranging from the docks, the slums, the coffee houses etc. to the middle-class families, everything seemed to be done so well. I loved we got to see so many different aspects of the city. It might have been hard, no doubt about that, yet it was worth it in the end.

I applaud the author for not involving any magical elements and staying focused on the blackmailing and the secrets, even though it wasn't enough to fill the entire book and in order to have a tight and solid plot. It often wandered to places, not particularly finding anything, to then head back to the direction it was supposed to go all along. The more we got to the end, the more predictable it became, although still being a pleasant read. It did start off wonderfully, where we as readers are thrown into the cruel lifestyle of a young girl, and her evolution towards becoming a well-known blackmailer. The flashback did a wonderful job here at creating some depth to Arista's situation, although I would have preferred more I found the plot often to lack in background and depth, especially when I look at Arista's training and how she became Bones' trusted puppet. A companion novel or short story would be interesting to see how it all played out, since I am curious for more.

The vivid descriptions did not only have an influence on the view of the world, but also on smaller aspects such as Arista's background, which was depicted beautifully. She had to endure such cruelties in the beginning of the book. It was nearly impossible for me to not sympathize with her every now and then, even though I could never a grip on her personality and her character in general. Because of her double life, Arista showed many different sides, which made it a bit difficult for me to figure out who she really was. To be honest, I don't think she knew either. On the other hand, that was also something made the book interesting.

We are introduced to the era of the Enlightenment, a setting which isn't favorable for a lot of books. Because of that, it had already sparked my interest from the very first page. Yet when the double life of Arista was introduced, I couldn't help but express my enthusiasm. It was rather original and entertaining at times, but I would have liked to see a little bit more of her occupation. Everyone was so contemptuous towards her and even afraid. The author had no trouble in showing it. After all, secrets hold the power to destroy a man. I still do not get what she actually does, and how she holds the power to make men bow. I feel like I have so many thoughts left to write down, even though that might take little while.

Arista's character was surprisingly enjoyable. It has been a while since I encountered a character who uses words and strategy. Someone is not afraid to show her flaws, a certain lack in physical strength or not knowing how to swim. Because she was more focused on inner strength, it brought out some interesting and fun Lady A scenes. Other characters like Sophie, Becky, Wild, Bones and Nic were a pleasant addition to the book because I felt like they all had their story to tell and their role to play. Grae seems to be a more special case. He just seemed like he was destined to be the perfect love interest for Arista. A courageous and loving young man with a desire to see the word. In other words, a character to swoon for. Who wouldn't fall for that? Exactly, I would too. It's not that his perfect personality bothered me, because he still was a likable character. What did, was how one-dimensional he actually was. He was introduced in the book somewhere halfway through, and ever since we meet him, the romance also jumps in. From then on, it seems like the relationship between the two moves on at a very quick pace. It's definitely not insta-love because there really is a certain development, only that it was left out because of the time jump the book made. Therefore I feel like a little more depth into their relationship and a visible development would have made the love between the two much more believable.

In a nutshell, I would recommend Tangled Webs for those interested in a light novel set in a very interesting time period. When I do not look at its flaws such as some flat characters and a lack of background and depth, it does has the premise of becoming something great. The characters still are lovely, and the plot is intriguing and fast-paced. Unfortunately, I have run out of things to say about this book, but let's keep that a secret. Won't we, Lady A?

Aurélie Cremers is an eighteen-year-old living in Belgium. As an active member on Goodreads, Edelweiss and Amazon, she's always spreading her reviews to express her opinion and influences her followers to read the books she fairly enjoyed. When she's not writing, you can find her at her local bookstore or in a classroom. With her blog, "Exploring Pages", Aurélie hopes to gain a larger public in the near future and to continue that what she'll always love doing: writing.

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